Beyond Coincidence, We Present 2018’s Merit Scholars

I like to think coincidences are purposeful, close encounters with God. We can view them as less-than-subtle reminders of The Almighty; or, more concretely, picture them as divine thumps against our thick skulls – wake up calls letting us know that God is, indeed, present and active in our world and in our lives.

As the One Who Is, fully knowledgeable of everything and everyone throughout time and space and Who Is present in all places at all times, our God certainly has more than a fly-on-the-wall insight into all that goes on.

As I sat down to write this article introducing our latest scholarship winners, I was overwhelmed with a busy schedule and tight deadline and needed to align what I wanted to do with what God wanted me to do. I knew better than to tackle this post on my own. Seeking His guidance, I started with prayer and was rewarded with one of His unmistakable ‘coincidental’ blessings.

God directed me to Our Daily Bread's online devotional, “Legacies of Love.” A Bible verse quoted in that devotional was the exact same scripture verse I had included in award letters mailed last month to seven scholarship recipients. The verse read,

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

I felt like God was affirming my message to the wonderful students. But more importantly, the quote accurately described the men and women who each received a $2,000 Pastor Janet Noble-Richardson Memorial Scholarship this past August, 2018.

These scholarships are given to ministry students attending Christian colleges or universities in the state of Michigan. Our objective is to support men and women who devote their lives to spreading the gospel of Christ so that God’s truth reaches people throughout the world.

Our scholarship recipients -- Amanda Ressler, Joel Werner, Hajin Jang, Kiersten Garrett, Lauren Kimes, Riley Weaver, and Shyanne Fox -- aren’t motivated by accolades. Instead, they revere God and recognize His call upon their lives. From that awareness flows all kinds of service. These students use their unique talents to share the gospel message of Christ, and in so doing they quite naturally please the Lord.



Amanda Ressler 2018
Kind and helpful, Amanda Ressler spends her time traveling, serving, and loving.

Now a junior at Concordia University Ann Arbor, Amanda Ressler received her second Pastor Janet Noble-Richardson Memorial Scholarship. Mandi plans to use her Church Work and Youth Ministry minors to continue bringing families throughout the world to Christ. She told us, “This image [from Revelation 7:9-10] of all of God’s children, every race, color, gender, age, and ability praising our Father whole-heartedly brings me such joy and hope. This is the future, this is what ministry is accomplishing…. I am able to do [my part] by sharing the Gospel with one family at a time and forming a relationship with them so that the Spirit can enter in and change their hearts for Christ.”

Like each of our scholarship recipients, Mandi is already boldly living out her faith. Earlier this year, she authored a blog post about how her obedience to God led to her own personal freedom. A link to her article, “A Guatemala Rescue,” is at the bottom of this page. It’s worth reading.



Engagement photo of Joel Werner and his fiancée Adele
Joel Werner and his fiancée Adele have a foundation in Christ on which to begin a life of ministry together.

Joel Werner, a senior at Concordia University Ann Arbor, is studying Biblical Languages in preparation for becoming a pastor. Influenced through strong earthly relationships—with his father, pastor, and fiancée Adele, Joel discerned divine direction for his life. Joel regularly witnessed the Holy Spirit at work in the people he is closest to and grew stronger in his own faith as a result.

Joel says, “I want to use the doctrine and Biblical languages that I’m learning to answer any question thrown at me. I want to be able to deliver the Word of God in a way that makes sense and to be God’s tool to help whomever he puts me in contact with. In my life, I have seen the power of the Gospel on people’s lives. I want to be a part of that in more lives.”




Hajin Jang
Hajin Jang is most adept with the guitar, but he's developing a wide range of expertise that will aid him in music ministry.

Hope College is where sophomore Hajin Jang paired his musical talents with his love for God and chose Music and Worship Ministry as his concentrations. Growing up as a pastor’s son in a missionary household in Thailand, Hajin didn’t think he would find himself suited for such a calling. But he experienced a change in heart during a summer missions tour of the many churches his family had helped establish and grow. Hajin felt the respect and love the Thai Christians had for his family. Hajin says, “To see all this love and how some leaders grow by the teaching sparked my desire to be a strong leader like my parents. I wanted to share this gospel for these people, love them, and see them grow in the love of Christ.”

Hajin has many dreams to match his varied interests. He hopes to put his worship ministry into practice in church settings; teach music to future generations, preferably throughout the United States, Thailand, and Korea; and create music schools and academies, especially for those who cannot afford to learn.



Kiersten Garrett
Sometimes Kiersten Garrett wears the colors of her college, but her goal in ministry is always to provide hope to those in need.

Youth Ministry is Hope College sophomore Kiersten Garrett’s concentration. Staying engaged in church has been an ongoing source of inspiration for Kiersten ever since her high-school days, when she was actively involved in youth group. During a group camp, she felt God’s presence and heard His message coming through the worship services. As Kiersten opened her heart to God’s plan for her, He gave her one opportunity after another to minister to people of all ages. But it’s middle school students whom she feels need her most. In obedience to God’s direction and guidance, Kiersten says, “I feel as if I am a microphone for God and that He is using my words to speak His truths to the students.”



Lauren Kimes 2018
Lauren Kimes believes students can change the world if they're given the tools to do so. We see that same quality in her.

Majoring in Biblical Studies and Communications, Lauren Kimes is a sophomore at Hope College. Passionate about working with children, she too is pursuing Youth Ministry. Her calling came loudly and clearly during a memorable youth group experience. She says, “God spoke boldly into my life and told me that this is what I was going to get to do for the rest of my life. I was going to get to witness children take the first steps in their faith. A faith that they decided on, not chosen for them by their parents. A faith that was all their own.”

Lauren has an inherent ability to bring people together and encourage each to be the best they can be. She hopes to use her skills to help children feel valued. She says, “The most influential people [to me] have been those who empowered me in my most formative years. They built me up, taught me to believe in my abilities, gave me tools to pursue Christ, and, in the end, believed in me. They told me that I had the power to make a difference and to follow the call God had for me. It is my dream to make this a reality for students that I work with in the future.”




Photo courtesy of Erin Karafa
Seeing the smile on Riley Weaver's face, you might never suspect that she overcame tremendous grief through the healing power of Christ.

Riley Weaver is a junior at Spring Arbor University, where she studies Camping Ministry. This is the second time she has received a Pastor Janet Noble-Richardson Memorial Scholarship. Having bereaved the deaths of her sister, brother, and stepmom, Riley empathizes with the students at camp who are in the midst of their own emotional pain. She says that, “God never left my side and would comfort me with His never-ending love. I could not imagine how I would have handled each trial had I not had a relationship with God. That is why I want to share the gospel of Christ with broken teens. I want them to know Christ, so they can know how much love He has for them.”



Shyanne and Paul Fox on their wedding day.
Shyanne and Paul Fox share more than a love for nature.

Soon to be graduating with a focus in Spiritual Formation and Leadership, Shyanne Fox dreams of what she and her husband can accomplish for Christ. The two were wed this past summer on the grounds of Camp Michindoh, where they first met. Both are interested in obtaining advanced degrees that will help prepare them for starting a business—specifically, a bakery that employs victims of human trafficking and aids their healing through emotional and spiritual counseling. Receiving her third Pastor Janet Noble-Richardson Memorial Scholarship, Shyanne says, “My decision to pursue a life of ministry comes from several experiences over a long period of time in which God was patient with me. Where he showed me grace and mercy through nature and through the people who have never left my side…I would love to become a counselor and help others journey toward healing.”

If you’ve ever thought about your own role in spreading the gospel message of Christ, I hope you’ll consider donating to Remembering Janet. We promise that 100% of your donation will help educate a Christian ministry student, like each of the seven you’ve just read about.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."          Luke 6:38

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Kelly Bixby

Secretly, I'm writing fictional stories for children and the inspirational nonfiction biography of Pastor Janet Noble-Richardson. But before those are ready for public viewing, I share pieces of me on Deadwood Writers Voices, a group blog; and on Remembering Janet, the website for the nonprofit charity I’m passionate about. I hope you see my love for God, compassion for people, and enthusiasm for learning in all I do.
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